The house on the farm that wasn’t a farm had the cold feel and smell that uninhabited houses have, like faded memories of people, their presence gone stale and uncertain. JJ thought of that town in Japan where the earthquake caused the reactor to melt down, breakfast bowls still on tables and backpacks still in neat circles on classroom carpets. He turned on the heat to move some molecules and get rid of the chill. They had gone to the bank on the way over. In all his accounts, not counting the value of the farm and the ranch, he had just over $1100 to his name. He was…what’s the term? Illiquid? Yes. He was illiquid and reliant on the ranch rent of an equally poor and unreliable brother and sister in Colorado.
“Hey,” Lila said. “We’re going to be all right.”
“Really,” she said. “We’ll go back to work.”
They walked together through the rooms of the house. The last people who lived here were Lila and Carl, who were caretaking. And taking care of each other. A tiny ember inside that he was not even aware of glowed suddenly and started to smolder. The resentment, kept at bay by motion and drama, now flamed up.
“Don’t,” Lila said.
“He hasn’t even called.”
JJ knew this was true, but the resentment was flaring and consuming the oxygen of his reason. He tried to stifle it for fear of letting the blaze get out of control. Too late…
They drove him away. They drove him out to Colorado where he got drunk and blew the rest of his money. She came to rescue him and tricked him into declaring love. He was dimly aware that he was being consumed by a lie of his disease and he know that he had to do something. He turned away and looked out the kitchen window.
The old view. The barn and the hill sloping down behind. The steeples and water tower in town, visible because the leaves were mostly down. The moodiness of the fall. It reminded him of the previous falls, disappointments, false starts and…rebirths?
“I have to make a call,” he said.
He walked out the door to the porch and dialed the number. Two rings. Three rings. A mixture of relief and despair. He had tried.
“Marty, it’s Jason. From the meeting.”
“Hey, what’s going on?”
And JJ shared the resentment. How Lila, who he loved, and Carl, his best friend from forever had shacked up when JJ got erratic, drunk and angry. How he couldn’t forget it and how it was consuming him. How he loved Lila. Yes, he had told her. But how could they be together with this this…thing, between them. It all came pouring out of him, spilling over like water in an overfilled vessel when it actually raises above the brim before spilling and flooding a table and floor.
“Listen,” Marty said. “Get down on your knees, right where you are. Right now.”
“Are you on your knees?”
“You mean while we’re on the phone?”
“Yes. Right now.”
JJ looked in the window to see if Lila was watching. He couldn’t see her so he got down on his knees.
“I’m down,” JJ said.
“Good. Now repeat after me. God, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”
“God,” JJ said. “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”
“I don’t even know if you’re real or not.”
JJ repeated, “I don’t even know if you’re real or not.”
“But please help me not to drink today. I beg you to help me not to drink today.”
JJ repeated it.
“Good,” Marty said. “Now go inside, hug your girl and tell her you’ll see her after the 6:00 meeting.”
“You’ll be there?”
“You bet. I’ll see you there.”
“Ok, thanks.” JJ got off his knees and went inside to hug his girl.